Each NBA season, there is at least one team that shocks us all and is way better than we expect. On the other hand, we sometimes see a team stink it up that makes us all wonder how. Last year, the Indiana Pacers were projected to be a bottom 3 team in the Eastern Conference. Led by breakthrough performer Victor Oladipo, the Pacers locked up the 5th seed and lost to the Cavs in 7 games in the playoffs last season. This season should offer lots of excitement from new look teams such as the Lakers, Raptors, and Suns, but none of those teams will be the surprise this year. This year’s surprise team is coming from out west and is gonna make noise all year long.
The Surprise Team: Denver Nuggets
The Denver Nuggets finished as the 9th seed last season and missed the playoffs only by a game. Denver would have been the 6th seed had they been in the Eastern Conference with their 46-36 record. The Nuggets had 2 notable additions this offseason in drafting Michael Porter JR. and signing Isaiah Thomas. Both of whom come with injury concerns, but when healthy can elevate their team mightily. Thomas is the most obvious one as we have all seen the heroics he performed with Boston a few years ago in a deep playoff run. Porter JR. was projected to be a top 5 pick in the most recent NBA draft, but his injury concerns had him slide to 14 and fall into the Nuggets hands. If both Thomas and Porter JR. are healthy by playoff time, this team will be a force.
Super Young Starting 5
The average of the starting 5 for the Denver Nuggets is 25. The starting 5 consists of Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic. Paul Millsap is the only one in his 30’s being 33, yet his experience can only benefit the young guns. The youth that this squad presents reveals that growth from each player is the only possibility moving forward. Gary Harris and Nikola Jokic could both easily average 20 points per game this season with how they play. Millsap possesses a great defensive ability that makes it tough for opposing players to score on him in the paint. Jamal Murray is only 21 and played tremendous last season averaging 16.7ppg. Ideally, he will improve on his assist numbers and become an even tougher guy to defend. Barton is the prototypical wing player who will work around screens and hit all of his open shots around the perimeter. These guys are the real deal.
Nikola Jokic: Future MVP?
Jokic is my sleeper pick to win the MVP this season. Last season, he averaged 18.5ppg, 10.7rpg, and 6.1apg. He can score 30 points and grab 20 rebounds in any game he wants to. His passing ability is really what separates him from all the other big men in the league. The next best big man passer is Al Horford, and Jokic is still worlds better than him with playmaking. He can body his way in for rebounds, make a behind the back pass, or hit an open three. If Denver really hones in on Jokic being their guy and give him all of the focus, he could certainly be the MVP.
Where will they Finish?
This Nuggets team I truly believe will be a top 5 team in the Western Conference this season. They are young and deep with loads of scoring and size. Injuries are always a concern, but if this team can manage a healthy season, they will be a real force to take down. I predict that they will win about 50 games this season. I would love to see some Denver basketball deep in the playoffs. When it’s all said and done, the Denver Nuggets will surprise the NBA world with their success.
-Brandon Black (Follow @bhblack02)
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